If you were annoyed by the lag, delays, and buffering on your Facebook Android app, blame HTML5 – just like iPhone users did. Facebook listened and scrapped its HTML5 iOS app for version 5.0, rebuilt from scratch in Objective-C. Android owners are finally getting the same treatment. Facebook today announced Android 2.0.
Back in August, it was reported that Facebook employees would be using Android phones, with the assumed goal being the team would be improving it – and it looks like that was the case. The latest update to Facebook’s Android app focuses on just speed, so there are no new bonus features added to the app if that’s what you were expecting. Instead you’ll find updates that are borrowed from the iOS app. For instance, like on Facebook’s iOS app, viewing photos on the Android app will be a completely new experience. If you tap on a photo it opens up instantly and you never leave the News Feed to view it. To close the photo, you just need to slide your finger in an upward motion. The second newsworthy addition is a “story banner” that notifies you of the new posts published by brands or friends that surface on the top of your News Feed.
Timeline and the News Feed notifications will be “twice as fast,” according to Facebook. The changes will be most noticeable, however, when you’re looking through your photos or opening up the Timeline. The delays should be dramatically reduced and it should no longer be a chore to use the app.
Facebook went deep into the guts of its new build on Android. Facebook software engineer Frank Du explained how the engineers approached speeding up Facebook’s performance on Android in the developer blog. He writes, “To support the unique complexity of Facebook stories across devices, we’re moving from a hybrid native/webview to pure native code, allowing us to optimize the Facebook experience for faster loading, new user interfaces, disk cache, and so on.”
What Facebook’s app used to be was a combination of a Web app and native code. Essentially on Android, its apps were partially the website version of Facebook (built in HTML5) baked into Java code. Any code that’s pulling content from the Web would mean inevitably delays. For developers this would have meant saving time from going back into the native code and editing it, and users wouldn’t have to constantly update their app to a new version whenever even minor changes were made.
Despite the benefits, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admitted in September of this year that he sacrificed performance for convenience, which was an egregious mistake. There are still a few HTML5 elements remaining, although far fewer than before, but the app will perform much faster although you’re going to be seeing updates more frequently.
You can get the updated Android App from the Google Play Store later today.